Words into Writing

Anzac Day and Anzac research

 Such a long time between posts but I have been super busy, writing wise.

A long held desire to write an Anzac story- a verse novel- has been achieved in its draft form.  The absolute thrill was to follow along my own grandfather's Anzac journey.  a grandfather I never knew.

The research was exhaustive until I found an out of print edition of 'My Corps Calvary' A history of the 13th Australian Light Horse regiment 1915-1918.'  And so began an eight month journey through Trove many text books, personal letters until I began a way into my novel.

And here is my grandfather H.W Chambers 141 MM

It was exhausting reacting to photographs, accounts, letters, understanding the world war and also its consequences down to me, a grand daughter.

But I pay homage to the men who willingly enlisted for mother country, to see the world, to show their mettle, to develop mate ship and I also pay homage to the families left behind and who latter dealt with death and the damaged men who came home.  I now have a much better understanding of the war, but there is so much more to be explored.  But for now,  I begin the edits and have acknowledged all my sources and where facts could not be found I put myself into my characters' shoes, in this case Irene a 12 year old and put her on a 1914 farm in central Victoria.   The verse novels uses three voices- that was a juggling act to keep each voice distinct- but enabled me to cover a depth of the war through home, overseas and community views.  

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An Occasional Book review

 I am working on Post Graduate studies in the verse novel technique for children/YA.  I am always fascinated by the genre both as a poet and reader.

And first up I have written a review of the wonderful poet Kat Apel's new verse novel, 'What the Snail knows' available from UQP.



Kat Apel has given us a wonderful verse novel in ‘What Snail knows,’ UQP illustrated by Mandy Foot.


Lucy is in her early years at school, and the plot theme is stated immediately.  Dad says, ‘It’s just you and me Lucy.’

It becomes a refrain through the first half of the novel.


But a new motif challenges this.  Lucy has a new companion, a snail, already equipped with travelling baggage and adaptable.  But Lucy can’t be that adaptable to constant change.


As Lucy goes to yet another new school, the text evolves to shape moving down the road. The titles of the poems are portals to enter the narrative.  


Features that stand out for me are the dialogue of the student, so economical. It  provides a rhythmical read. Here’s a sample involving the topic ‘Homework’.


Home Work

Roxie:  This week, it really is home work!

Jack: Can we cook toast? Does that count?

Heidi: What if we don’t have a dog?


Kat weaves environmental themes throughout her narrative.  What a triumph is the rhyming Cane Toad poem as the class is challenged by their teacher to become involved in caring for the environment. There is even a recipe for beeswax wraps!


Concrete poems are also weaved throughout the text – like the heart shaped poem called ‘I heart the Harts’, towards the end of the book.


There is much for the reader to savour in the unfolding plot, the richness of the classroom compared to the spareness of Lucy’s caravan life.  And we are thrilled as all the threads come together in a satisfying ending.  A great read!  A great addition to Australia’s innovative verse novel stream.

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A long time...

 I have let this blog slip, not intentionally, our 'unprecedented living times'- yes a cliche has put me a bit off kilter, but rest assured I am still writing and submitting, but success at publications are indeed hard.

But I continue to write poetry and here the 'School Magazine' NSW has created a little you- tube of my largest poem to be published in School Magazine November Touchdown edition.

I will always write a poem when I wish to teach one of my strategies and this is a short poem but every word counts.


Spring Walk

Also a little brag, 'Footprints on the Moon' 
 published in February by UQP made the shortlist of this award, very happy that a verse novel can recreate history!

And finally another happy creative place- a little snapshot of part of my garden.

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An Occasional book review


By Claire Saxby Illustrated by Jess Racklyeft

Iceberg by Claire Saxby illustrated by Jess Racklyeft  2021 Published by Allen and Unwin


I have been a fan and friend of Claire for a long time now and am just blown away by this non-fiction Picture Book.    The poetry in the text mirrors the splintery, cold and icy world of the Antarctic.


‘In the pale morning an iceberg calves- shears from a glacier 

and plunges to the ocean in a haze of sparkle-frost.

The iceberg is flat-topped, sharp and angular

and carries ancient weather in its layers of ice-clothing;

a coat for each year volcanoes blew

and black ash fell like snow.’


Claire uses repetition: ‘If this world looks empty,

Look closer.’  It forms a motif and a continuity for the narrative.


And as the narrative unfolds and the gorgeous blues, white and black of Jess Racklyeft’s artwork also unfolds.  Then the colour of summer delights with orange, smudged yellow and the most delectable squid and jellyfish are revealed in fold out flap pages.   We have a whole undersea panorama of movement reflecting shadow and filtered sunlight.


The world around the iceberg reverberates with squid, krill, birds, orca and short-tailed shearwaters.  It is fascinating to be drawn into this icy world and to recognise the importance of an iceberg calving!  Love that description!  I remember when Claire first shared her Iceberg poem and I pointed out that I found an iceberg calving strange (as an ex dairy farmer) She reassured me this was the correct terminology and what a visual and literary feast we have now in this book.  A precious gem to read, share and reread again.


Thanks Claire and Jess for a great book!



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 But who's counting...

It's been a big journey but the destination is so worth it- with input from great editors to rewrite, delete, reorganise and now the novel is back in the very original version of poems with titles.  A new format for a verse novel from me.  And a new setting- a high school, a new era 1969 and world shattering events.

Man on the moon and Australia's involvement with the Vietnam War.

I had mementos I'd kept from the 1960's... yes ancient I know.  This moon landing event has always fascinated me.  I was able to use some amazing facts that Lewis, Sharnie's cousin uses.

And on the Vietnam war front, first hand feedback and the privilege of having been young in the era of protest and our involvement.

So here is the cover.... drum roll... fireworks... Hurray!!!

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Well lately everything has changed, but once I've established a routine I can pick out the things that matter most to me and one of those 'things' is writing.

So my new verse novel 'Foot prints on the Moon' has been undergoing lots of re-writing, cuts with polish, until the main character Sharnie, is truly the focus.  This novel has a multitude of themes but now with some wonderful suggestions from my publisher and editor the story line is tighter.  A bit tricky with a verse novel as there is a fine balance between the poetry and the narrative.

But the subject matter and the time frame demand a poetic touch, an extra dimension as the story unfolds.

What else have I been doing?  Going through very, very old journals- my first writing journals as a teenager and scanning or feeding to the compost bin.

A surprise is that some themes then are the themes I still embrace now.  And look at the wonderful covers of my journals- I have saved them and will re-use maybe as junk journals which I am itching to try.

Writing still matters greatly to me and its the humming line, the breathing line, the joyous line through each day.

What matters to you at this Covid-19 time?
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My grandson Louis has found a book connection with my dog Monti- "Look Monti a book about you!"

Precious moments.

On the writing front I have a new book scheduled for publication this year but it still has lots of work ahead, but love the main character Sharnie- a longer verse novel for an older age group with lots of subplots and issues.  This book began life many years ago and has been transforming- I think this is the way I tend to work- by the seat of my pants!  So a new pin board (reclaimed from the recycle tip) and covered by a fabric hessian scrap, may help me to navigate the rollicking waters of plot, character arcs, character growth and sub plots!!!!!

Meanwhile my garden begins to take shape and these are the first blueberries we have ever grown.

And our sadness at the terrible tragedy of our bushfires often results in helplessness at the plight of so many needing help- what can we do?  We can write, we can pray, we can donate and we can plant and carefully recycle and reuse.  As a writer my words are often recycled, my ideas often recycled until they reach a satisfactory outcome.  Little things, little works, little poems, little prayers all make a difference. What do you recycle?
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A big week coming up...

It's August and book week looming has a special sweetness this year, but before that I am involved in my home ground production of the Bendigo Writers' festival- the schools session 'Text Marks the spot'.

I am talking with my friend Glenda Millard and hosted by a long time journalist friend Lauren Mitchell.  We will be talking writing legends- mainly those created by our words and it will be fun.

I am also talking in a session about judging and entering competitions, with Sarah Mayor Cox and Susan Green.  There are great opportunities out there for budding writers and we will look at universal suggestions when entering a competition.

But I was part of an interesting podcast by Tracey Grice for the shortlisted books in CBCA awards this year.  I am enjoying listening to other authors also- what a great initiative Tracey!

Enjoy your reading writing world this week!

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The past two months have seen hyper activity with my book 'Leave Taking'.

The cover now sports two stickers, a shortlisted CBCA and a short listed NSWPLA.

I was able to go on the train to Melbourne for the announcement of the CBCA shortlisting.  I had to use a crutch as my knee was still in recovery mode.   But what a buzz to hear 'Leave Taking' read out as a shortlist in the junior fiction category and to be in such good company with other authors.

Then last Monday(29th 0f April) Kel drove us to Sydney for the announcement of the NSW Premier's literary awards- 'Leave Taking' was shortlisted in this.  A fabulous night of meeting authors, judges, friends and learning more about the current writing scene.

Then the announcement that Claire Saxby with her book "Dingo' was a joint winner of the Patricia Wrightson award for children's fiction with my book 'Leave taking'.  Of ouches I didn't have a speech prepared but delivered one of thanks to the team at UQP.  And oops forgot my family!

What a difference an award makes to all those years of writing!  And hopefully 'Leave Taking' will go on to help children and families riding the crest of grief.

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It's always a tension filled time waiting to see if your book has made it to the Notables list of the CBCA awards.  At 7 pm when the awards were announced on the website, the web page wouldn't load for awhile, then slowly it revealed 'Leave Taking' was nestled in the younger readers category.

Notables Book of the year 2019

Such relief, such excitement, such sweet joy for my publishers who had risked and had faith in my verse novel- not an easy genre to be published in.

Then two days later 'Leave Taking' became shortlisted in the NSW Premier's Literary awards.

State Library NSWPremiers Literary awards

So it has been exciting times and a boost to keep writing, keep writing.  And reading.  I am loving reading books listed in the same category as mine and have enjoyed Shine Mountain by Julie Hunt and Maya and Cat by Caroline Magerl and of course celebrated with my good friend Claire Saxby with Dingo.  Exciting times in the world of Children's literature, I should say Australian children's literature.

And best of all there is a new verse novel in the wings for me!

Happy writing and reading.

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